Control Engineering HMI eNews for July 2002


In this issue:



What do you want from HMI?

Many technology writers have been discussing 'software bloat' over the past year as the size of programs grows to immense proportions. Software developers continually add new features in response to new user needs or demands and, perhaps, to keep up with or stay ahead of competition. Certainly HMI/SCADA software has grown significantly from its roots of visualization and alarm notification.

In a recent conversation, Wonderware vp, Kevin Tock, mentioned that many new products came out almost as services, but customers explained what functions they wanted and that they wanted them as 'shrink-wrapped' products. He pointed to recent features in FactorySuite enhancing analysis of down time and quality, as well as building a better historical database.

Now Kevin is a technology guy, not 'just another marketing type,' so I know he works with real customers. But I'm continually curious about Control Engineering readers. Do you use one of the HMI/SCADA packages? How many of the features do you use/need? What would you really like to see in a new release? Do you have any problems with a vendor? Or, how many 'roll your own' HMI with Microsoft Visual Basic or VC++? E-mail .

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Reader feedback

Last month I took a shot at ethics of corporate ceo's in the news. Herewith, a sampling of comments:

'I have long been appalled at the turn toward the worship of money over everything else, and I was afraid I was the only one who noticed!'

'Business and capitalism are at a crossroads. It's time for CEOs to rally around a new set of business truths. It's time for an agenda that restores faith in business, trust in business leaders, and hope in the future.'

One person, who obviously will remain anonymous, wrote, 'The organization I work in has very few people in management I feel I can trust to communicate my ideas, concerns, or opinions without some form of backlash.' I wonder how many engineers share this feeling?

Another replied, 'The bottom line, appreciate and treat employees well, and they will treat customers well. Happy customers create demand, which translates to profitability. Only when consumers create real demand does the economy turn bullish.'

In May, I asked about trade shows and conferences. I just received a well-reasoned reply. The writer notes that trips to trade shows often was used as a 'perk' to employees acknowledging contributions during the year. He also remembers when local distributors used the occasion to 'wine and dine' customers. Neither is happening right now.

One thing I noticed on this discussion topic was that no one wrote in favor of conferences at the trade shows. Many said they get information from sources like Control Engineering and the Web. I've been wondering if conferences were getting too expensive for the benefits. Under what circumstances would you attend a conference?

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User training

Mention data acquisition and the usual image is analog signals tied to a conditioning module, forwarded to a controller. The nature of available data has changed. Vision and bar-code systems acquire data on automated lines to feed corporate supply chain databases. Likewise, Opto 22 has discovered that a primary use of its SNAP I/O system is acquiring manufacturing data to send to manufacturing and corporate databases.

New uses require training for effective implementation. Therefore, a couple of training opportunities that have just been announced.

Opto 22 now offers free training for its SNAP Ultimate I/O system. Classes will be held at Opto 22 corporate headquarters in Temecula, Calif. Classes are offered once a month beginning in July and lasting through the end of 2002. The four-day, hands-on classes will cover all the functionality of the SNAP Ultimate I/O system including system components, networking capabilities, system configuration, diagnostics, and troubleshooting. Also covered will be various communication methods such as XML, SMTP, and SNMP over Ethernet or dial-up.

For more, visit

Microscan University provides an opportunity to learn how to get more from your bar-code investment. It offers four separate tracks of seminars: Scanner Basics covering how to get a scanner up and running, Bar Codes 101 covers how to use bar codes to improve the bottom line, Technical Courses designed for the advanced data capture professional, and AIDC for Industry addresses topics pertinent to a specific industry. It is free and open to anyone.

For more, visit and

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Intellution introduces iFix 3.0

Emerson Process Management's Intellution unit has updated its iFix HMI/SCADA application. 'Point verification' has been added to enhance audit trail capabilities. This set of core functionality requires users to enter username and password information each time a change is made to the HMI/SCADA application or to perform specific actions within the process. The prompt is independent from initial user login, adding a layer of security and traceability. Among other enhanced features are wizards to assist developing and deploying applications and a 'virtual keyboard' on screen for environments where a keyboard is impractical.

For more, visit

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Future of HMI?

As a member of the World Future Society , I receive The Futurist magazine. Aside from being another reason for the postman to curse having me on his route for all the added weight of journals I receive, this publication's main purpose is to stretch the boundaries of thinking and open you to new possibilities. The current issue includes 'The Technology Timeline' from Btexact Technologies . One category is 'Machine-Human Interface.' Some futurist 'predictions' - tactile sensors comparable to human sensation by 2004, voice synthesis quality up to human standard and voice control of many household gadgets by 2005, voice interface for household appliances by 2010, and computer screens in clothes by 2005. Hmmm, operator-interface terminals in your necktie?

You have to be a member to see the magazine online, but you can download a pdf of the entire Technology Timeline at

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Harsh environment touchscreen monitor

An RuggedTouch from Dolch is available with 12-, 15-, and 18-in. LCD displays. Bezel options include stainless steel for NEMA 4X applications and black powder coated steel for NEMA 4 and NEMA 12 applications. Additional options include direct sunlight readable upgrades. 'EnhancedInfrared' touch displays, a technology designed specifically for harsh and hazardous applications are featured on the units. These touchscreens maintain calibration without drifting and are operationally immune to cuts or wear on the touch surface. 'RayFire' digital fiber-optic video and data transmission system allows the PC to be located anywhere - in most cases, a centralized, climate-controlled room that allows for increased security and easy system configuration changes and upgrades.

For more, visit

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Intermec supports RSS codes

Intermec Technologies' ScanPlus 1800 family of scanners now support Reduced Space Symbology (RSS) bar codes. The codes, developed by the EAN International and the Uniform Code Council Inc., currently include seven variations. These scanners support all linear versions of the RSS symbology, while support for composite codes will be added later this year.

Reduced Space Symbology is a family of linear codes capable of encoding the 14-digit EAN/UCC Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) in a very small space. It also allows additional information, such as variable weights and measures or expiration dates, to be included in a limited space.

For more, visit

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Class 1 Division 2 flat-panel monitors

Christensen Display Products has introduced a family of industrial flat-panel monitors, dubbed HZ series, now available Listed and labeled for Class 1 Division 2 Hazardous Location use. The line extension includes over 35 new part numbers including both touchscreen and standard versions of 10-, 12-, 14-, 15-, 18-, and 20-in. monitors.

For more, go to

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Control Engineering Buyer's Guide

Control Engineering Online Buyer's Guide includes a number of HMI and software categories and subcategories that may be useful. If you've registered, you can gain access through the following link. If you're not logged in or if you need to register, the link will take you to a page where you can register, enter your username and password, or use the 'forgot my password' function.

For more, visit /buyersguide

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